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Monday, March 27, 2023

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Guest Opinion: Residents should accept responsibility for funding road repair


Guest opinion submitted by David Warren–
A recent letter to the editor decried the Citrus Heights mayor’s endorsement of the Republican nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives, arguing that a nonpartisan office holder should refrain from such public comment.

David Warren

Although an endorsement would be inappropriate while chairing a City Council meeting, both the U.S. and California Constitution Article 1 guarantee the mayor’s right to free speech, including political endorsements. The mayor did not waive his civil rights by being elected to the City Council.

Related: Citrus Heights mayor offers early endorsement of Bera challenger

It is more important to defend the right to express opinions with which we disagree, than for those with which we agree.

For most municipal issues, we probably all agree, regardless of our individual political views. The City must provide an adequate police force, streets free from potholes, and an assurance of a civil society. The issue is always in the details.

An excellent example can be found in the debate over Proposition 6, which seeks to repeal Senate Bill 1, the gasoline and license fee tax that over the next decade will raise $54 billion for road repairs and funding for transit projects.

A discussion of the pros and cons of the ballot proposition are better suited to moderated civil discourse than a short newspaper piece. However, the ballot proposition does raise an important issue of local governance.

Some members of the City Council have supported the repeal of the gas tax and license fee increases. As with the mayor’s endorsement, councilmembers should speak on issues of public interest and importance.

During the City Council’s Sept. 27 meeting, the council announced the City will receive over $1 million dollars in SB 1 tax money to repair our streets. Why would the City accept money which some of the councilmembers believe is wrongly taken from the electorate?

More importantly, in that most of the money which the City will receive comes from taxpayers who are not residents of Citrus Heights (i.e., coastal county residents provide most of the tax revenue), shouldn’t the money be returned to those who have paid it? The irony of the situation cannot be lost on any of us, i.e., why is the City accepting the SB 1 money to which some councilmembers object?

The more important question which needs to be answered is, if the road repairs are necessary and the City lacks the revenue to make the repairs, why hasn’t the City Council placed a new initiative on the ballot and supported a tax assessment to obtain the money to make the necessary repairs, similar to that which the State approved?

The money to pay for municipal improvements does not fall from the sky. We as residents need to accept the responsibility of the municipal independence from the County by fully funding municipal repairs and public safety.

Not two weeks ago, the United States 9th Cir. Court of Appeals found that a city’s enforcement of camping and sleeping ordinances effectively penalizes the homeless for simply being present or engaging in innocent activity, such as sleeping, that does not warrant punishment under the Eighth Amendment and, in effect, criminalizes the status of being homeless. As a result of the decision, the Citrus Heights homeless problem will increase drastically.

During the past two years, homeowners have appeared at the City Council repeatedly asking that the City repair streets and act upon homelessness. The response each time was insufficient immediate funds to address the problems.

Clearly, if the City Council is willing to take nonresidents’ tax money for municipal repairs, they should have the intestinal fortitude to ask the residents to fully fund municipal services to fix the potholes and develop low income housing.

Unless the City finds alternative housing for the homeless, our parks and shopping malls will become the campgrounds of last resort, without the necessary safety and sanitary facilities. And, if the streets are not repaired, no matter what the Chamber of Commerce tries to do, our community will lose its reputation as a place to do business and reside.

We can no longer “hope” that things will improve without action, because they have not and will not. New civic problems require new solutions.

If some City Councilmembers do not approve of the imposition of the gasoline tax and increased license fee, don’t they have the moral obligation to obtain an alternative source of revenue within our community, not from the State or Federal Government?

David Warren is a Citrus Heights resident and legislative advocate at the State Capitol with Taxpayers for Public Safety. He can be reached at David@forpublicsafety.com.

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